A road map has been worked out for the University of the West Indies (UWI) to be put on a stronger footing both financially and academically by a high-powered regional group that include former Chief Justice of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Kittian-born Sir Dennis Byron.
The team was assembled by the Chancellor of UWI, Robert Bermudez among growing dissatisfaction in the region about the performance of the premier learning institution in the Caribbean.
The Byron-led group suggested sweeping changes including greater transparency in spending funds and for a change in the fee structure for students in order to make it more accommodating for all persons interested in pursuing high education.
THE NEW TODAY highlights the key recommendations put forward by the team members for consideration by the governing UWI Council:
The Council should be retained as a large assembly of stakeholders.
Establish an Executive Committee of Council (ECC) to carry out functions delegated by Council: the Council must reserve certain functions to itself. The Chancellor should be the Chair of the ECC.
The Council should adopt a Statement of Primary Responsibilities.
Establish an Executive Committee of the Campus Council to carry out most of the Council’s powers by delegation. The Committee should be chaired by the Chair of the Campus Council Create Advisory Committees to support the Executive Committee of Council. Six Committees should be established with responsibility, respectively, for Governance, Finance and Capital Allocation, Audit and Risk, Human Resources, Student Success and Digital Transformation.
At the campus level, create similar Advisory Committees (except the Governance and Digital Transformation Committees) to support the Executive Committee of the Campus Council.
Chairs of all Advisory Committees should be independent persons (i.e. not in the employment of the University).
One of the functions of the Governance Committee of the ECC would be to develop a framework for identification and selection of the Chancellor’s nominees and guidelines for their orientation, training and the evaluation of their performance annually.
The number of terms for each individual should be specified.
The proposed Finance and Capital Allocation Committee of the Council would examine all major financial proposals and make recommendations to the ECC to inform its decision-making/ recommendations to the Council.
Mandate a process for approval of expenditures and capital projects exceeding a prescribed limit.
Proposals to be:
(a) reviewed by the campus FCAC
(b) approved by the campus ECC
(c) referred to the University FCAC and, if approved, submitted to University ECC for approval
(d) recommended to the University Council for ultimate approval.
A framework should be established by the University ECC requiring proposals for business arrangements to be approved and monitored by the Campus FCAC for campus- related businesses, and by the FCAC of the University Council for businesses controlled by the regional administration.
The Human Resource Committees proposed at the regional and campus levels should establish a framework for appointment and appraisal of senior leaders by the ECC and the Council. The Committee should approve and monitor HR policies.
The proposed Human Resource Committee at the regional level would oversee wide dissemination of the Statement of Principles and Code of Ethics and be responsible for reviewing complaints about breaches at the regional level.
The Campus HR Committee should review complaints about breaches at the campus level
Human Resource Committee to direct the development of a whistleblower policy and oversee its implementation.
The Student Success Committees proposed at the regional and campus levels should ensure the development and oversight of programmes aimed at promoting academic success by providing appropriate student support services, and by promoting a campus culture and overall student experience that is positive – preferably, exceptional.
The proposed Digital Transformation Committee of Council would oversee and, where appropriate, ensure the implementation of changes recommended.
Abolish the University Strategy and Planning Committee which would become redundant since, in the proposed restructuring arrangement, its planning functions would be carried out by the Vice-Chancellor and senior managers in collaboration with the ECC and, following approval of the Plan by the Council, its implementation by senior managers would be monitored by the ECC and the Senate.
With the proposed abolition of the F&GPC, the conflict of interest issue would be eliminated.
The proposed Advisory Committees of the Council would not be chaired by the Vice-Chancellor but by external members of Council.
The ECCs and advisory committees at both the regional and campus levels must be made excepted Committees under Statute 5 since they will be chaired by persons other than the Vice-Chancellor
The University Executive Management Team should be renamed the University Senior Management Committee (USMC) and formally established by Ordinance which should prescribe provisions on membership, frequency of meetings, procedures and reporting responsibilities.
The Vice-Chancellor would chair USMC and be a member of the ECC. The USMC would be expected to work closely with the ECC so speeding up decision-making with assurance of monitoring by the highest authority of the University.
The Campus Executive Management Team should be renamed the Campus Senior Management Committee (CSMC) and should be formally established by Ordinance which would prescribe provisions on membership, frequency of meetings, procedures and reporting responsibilities.
The Campus Principal would chair the Committee and would be a member of the Campus ECC. The Campus Senior Management Committee would be expected to work closely with the Campus ECC.
While a Campus Principal would continue to report to the Vice- Chancellor, there would be a “dotted line reporting relationship” to the Campus Council through the proposed Executive Committee.
Revitalise the Senate and assign it by statute the function of coordinating/ integrating the work of Board for Undergraduate Studies, Board for Graduate Studies and Research, and the 5 Campus Academic Boards (Section 6). In this way, the Senate can coordinate major matters related to the University’s academic enterprise.
(Academic Governance cohering in a revitalised Senate would complement Corporate governance by the Council acting through the regional ECC.)
As is currently the case, the Vice- Chancellor would be Chair of the Senate.
The membership of the Senate which is prescribed by Statute should be reviewed: 30 or less members is suggested. This could be achieved by the reduction in the number of representatives of the Academic Boards.
With the Senate revitalised as proposed, fixed dates should be set in the University’s calendar for at least two meetings of Senate in each year. The meetings should be scheduled for a time between meetings of BUS and BGSR.
There should be close linkage between the Senate and the University ECC as well as the campus Academic Boards and Campus ECCs.
In addition to the VC, a few individuals jointly selected by the Council and the Senate should serve on both bodies to ensure coordination of academic and corporate governance.
Re-visit the membership of Academic Boards with a view to reducing the number of members to 20-25 and incentivising attendance and participation.
It appears that these Boards are strong, respected academic governance structures that are fulfilling their mandates, by assuring quality and the maintenance of high academic standards.
The structure and functions of these bodies should remain the same. However, the work of BUS and BGSR and the Academic Boards needs to be co-ordinated. A Senate, revitalised as proposed, would provide an appropriate forum for such coordination.
The Council and Senate should collaborate in mandating the development of a framework for the engagement of the University in global partnerships, which should include criteria for engagement, assessment of risks and mechanisms for ongoing monitoring and reporting.
A policy should be instituted that large University meetings involving overseas travel are to be held using internet conferencing facilities: one face-to-face meeting could be held annually.
With the proposed new Governance structure outlined, the Council through its various Committees, should review and approve the Strategic Plan, establish frequent reporting and continuous performance assessment of the Executive Leadership in meeting established objectives, and make interventions as needed.
The Council’s fiduciary oversight must be well supported with expert advice and data. In this regard, the Council must ensure that it has the appropriate data for decision-making, and should direct any gaps to be addressed promptly.
Resource allocation, cost and revenues need to be made visible and transparent across the defined segments within the University in order to monitor and evaluate the financial performance of each segment and its sustainability as a stand-alone.
The Executive Leadership should define the segments relevant to the University as well as key performance metrics, and ensure that systems and resources are in place to generate this type of reporting on a timely basis.
Implement aggressive cost-reduction initiatives. The UWI leadership should proactively initiate extensive cost-saving and efficiency projects such as the ones recommended in the ATTAIN report. With the impact of Covid-19 and the resulting shift to digital education delivery, there should be increased focus on leveraging technology to reduce the economic cost of tertiary education at The UWI.
A team should be established with relevant stakeholders, including all Bursars, and a mediative consultant to review and agree on a methodology to calculate the economic cost and to allocate that cost through an agreed billing process. Given the work done by the ATTAIN group, it is suggested that someone from this team could be asked to play the role of the meditative consultant.
Implement improved processes to ensure greater prudence and fiduciary responsibility with focus on:
(a) Clear definition of authority levels and approval limits
(b) Reporting relationships for key finance staff
(c) Approval process for capital expenditure
(d) Approval process for borrowing
(e) Process and framework for undertaking Commercial projects
(f) Accountability for meeting financial metrics
(g) Compliance framework
(h) Monitoring mechanisms, including Whistleblower mechanisms
Once these are developed and documented, implement a robust programme of communication and training to ensure full awareness not only of the procedures, but the expectations for compliance.
Create a specialised team at The UWI Centre level to be accountable for the commercial activities across all campuses: identifying and proposing opportunities, implementation of approved activities and ongoing monitoring of commercial activities.
The University Bursar should play a greater oversight and approval role over the Campus Bursars. The Campus Bursars should have “dotted line reporting relationships” to the University Bursar, and the University Bursar should clearly define the working relationship, including meeting frequency, level of authority.
Implement a process requiring the submission of quarterly declarations by staff to whom the consulting rules apply, listing consultancies undertaken by them in the previous quarter with confirmation that the prescribed portion of consultancy fees received have been paid over to The UWI.
Appropriate sanctions are to be applied if false or incomplete declarations are submitted.
Adopt a new funding model:
(a) Students – 40% through borrowing with long-term mortgage-type, graduated payments that are aligned with the graduate’s ability to repay, for example, a set percentage of the graduates’ income during their working lifetime. And perhaps the debt-repayments could be tax-deductible, to further reduce the burden of repayment.
(b) Government – 60%
Private Sector Contribution: The private sector can also contribute more to tertiary education. The level of funding for students should be biased towards key programmes considered important for development in the region. An appropriate mechanism/framework could be developed to achieve greater contributions by the Private Sector. We recommend that UWI conduct research on global best practices in private sector funding, and develop options for consideration.
Engaging Alumni: A strong coordinated effort with adequate systems, resources and funding should be placed on executing a sustained programme of engaging existing alumni to earn a greater contribution from them. The UWIAA should seek the necessary tax incentives to encourage donations.
In consultation with UWI Executive leadership teams, the Human Resources Committee of the Council should ensure the development of key strategic metrics for Executives which include management of financial challenges and the standing of UWI compared to international benchmark ratings.
Devise cost-efficient internal programmes to mentor and build financial management and people management skills.
Establish appropriate guidelines to provide a policy framework for executive oversight and accountability: consultations to be held with the executive teams prior to implementation.
To promote a culture based on caring and kindness driven by a team of change makers on each campus.
Create by Ordinance:
(a) the Executive Committee of the Council as a Standing Committee (ensuring that it falls within the definition of “excepted committee” in the Statutes -i.e. not chaired by the VC).
(b) the Executive Committee of the Campus Council as a Standing Committee Revoke Ordinances 10 and 25 under which the (University) F&GPC and the Campus F&GPC, respectively, are established.
Replace all references from the Statutes and Ordinances and other instruments (e.g. the Financial Code) to the Finance and General Purposes Committee(s) with references to the appropriate body.
Establish by Ordinance the following Advisory Committees of the Council, prescribing their purpose, functions membership and procedure:
(a) Governance Committee
(b) Finance and Capital Allocation Committee
(c) Audit and Risk Committee
(d) Human Resources Committee
(e) Student Success Committee
(f) Digital Transformation Committee
All Committees, other than the Digital Transformation Committee, to be Standing Committees and the Digital Transformation Committee to be an ad hoc Committee since it will have a finite life.
Establish by Ordinance as Standing Committees of the Campus Council the Committees listed above except the Governance Committee and the Digital Transformation Committee.
Amend Ordinances 11 and 12 to broaden the mandates of the University and Campus Audit Committees in relation to their audit function and extend their functions to include oversight of risk management, corporate compliance and corporate quality assurance.
Formalise by Ordinance the University Executive Management Team as an advisory body to the Vice-Chancellor and prescribe its purpose functions, membership and procedures.
Rename the body the University Senior Management Committee (USMC).
Formalise by Ordinance the Campus Executive Management Team as an advisory body to the Campus Principal and prescribe its purpose, functions, membership and procedures.
Rename the body the Campus Senior Management Committee (CSMC).
Provide by Ordinance the recommended process for approval of expenditure and capital projects exceeding a prescribed limit by regional and campus administrations
Amend Statute 21.3 (approval for expenditure by Campus Councils and Principals) in excess of prescribed limits) and the Financial Code, as necessary.
Establish by Ordinance criteria for engagement in global partnerships and the procedure for approval and monitoring of such engagement.
Amend Statute 24 to adjust the membership of Senate as proposed (30 or less).
Amend Statute 25 to ensure that the Senate has explicit authority to coordinate and integrate the work of BUS, BGSR and Academic Boards and to be a forum for discussion of crosscutting academic issues.
Amend Statute 26 to provide for at least two meetings of the Senate each year.
Amend Ordinances 28 and 54 to reduce the membership of the Academic Boards.
Amend Ordinance 8 pursuant to negotiations with the WIGUTs:
(a) to reflect proper performance criteria for promotion of Academic Staff, Senior Administrative Staff and Professional Staff, and their relative weight. (The existing provisions reflect areas of activity to be assessed, not performance criteria). Teaching needs to be allocated more weight than it currently has in the processes relating to appraisal, evaluation and promotion of academic staff.
(b) to make the University Disciplinary Committee and the Campus Disciplinary Committee standing committees rather than ad hoc committees.
(c) to modify the procedure set out in paragraph 37 of the Ordinance so as to provide a framework for dealing with complaints that is consistent with modern HR practices and natural justice principles.
Reporting: make legislative provision to make it clear that:
(a) Deans report to the Principal of the relevant campus
(b) Professors report to the Heads of the Departments to which they are assigned.
Support and incentivise deployed human resources to undertake required transformation roles.
Secure adequate funding and technical support for the ICT initiatives and digital transformation programme.
Develop a nomenclature compendium as a critical systematic governance tool, to be updated in every subsequent round of reform, restructuring or governance review or overhauling.
Take into account 10 other key digital transformation recommendations to be incorporated in work plans of various management teams and respective governance committees.
Establish an ICT and Digital Transformation Committee of the University Council.
Accord more prominence, visibility and authority to the University CIO post, to be duly recognised and formalised as a Council Member by statute.
Shift to a stronger virtual construct in a blended modality of delivery throughout the university system.
The University should invite strategic partners to co-locate on its campuses in the Caribbean rather than UWI’s co-locating around the globe.
Revisit as soon as possible the economic cost model to yield a more transparent differential pricing formula for online and face to face programmes.
Optimise the potential opportunities to leverage on the emerging possibilities for moving forward.
Establish an Implementation Team to develop maps for each stage of implementation of the recommendations of the Commission accepted by Council. The Team should report periodically to the proposed Executive Committee of the Council on achievements against an approved plan and time-table.